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Wednesday, 3 June 1998
Page: 4694

Mr McARTHUR (10:35 PM) —Today is the 201st anniversary of the landing of the first merinos on Australian soil and, like some other members, I have got a symbol of the wool industry here on my lapel to celebrate that event. As a former wool grower of Corriedale sheep, well known for their meat and lustrous 25- to 30-micron wool, I have been very much part of this industry. There has been some confusion about the original importer, John Macarthur. His wife did much of the work with the original merino. He had certain roguish tendencies. My forebears were free settlers from Scotland. I would like to get that clearly on the record here in the parliament.

But 3 June 1998 is a much more important occasion because we have in the gallery students from the schools of Lethbridge, Inverleigh, Meredith, Shelford, Anakie and Batesford, from the heartland of Corangamite, the premier wool growing area of Australia. The students are here to see the parliament in action, and they have seen some quite lively performances, both this evening and yesterday. They have visited the High Court. They have visited the House of Representatives. They have seen it in its usual active state with nobody there. They have seen the Japanese embassy and they have seen the Science and Technology Museum.

Members will be interested to know that the students had a mock parliament at Meredith where real democracy was in action, major issues were discussed and there was grassroots debating. The member for Corangamite was appointed Speaker without debate, and the legislation before the House was `No junk food to be consumed at the school'. The government had a view: they were against junk food being consumed. The Prime Minister was appointed—Rebecca Smith, after a party room count. Sam Toulmin was appointed opposition leader. Strong speeches were made and there were a lot of interjections. No suspensions were undertaken by the Speaker and the Speaker was totally in control. I wish to draw to the House's attention that these young students started to behave like members of the House of Representatives.

The doors were locked, a vote was taken and the majority was on the government side. Opinions were expressed on both sides about the value of the debate, and there was some concern that some members on the opposition side were supporting the government. That does not happen in this place. There was a heated debate about the local issues, and they understood that it is a privilege here in Australia to debate matters freely—unlike in Indonesia where troops, guns, nepotism and corruption have been the order of the day.

Lethbridge is a very fine little village—over 100 years old—in the Golden Plains Shire halfway between Bannockburn and Meredith. Inverleigh has a background in sheep and crops and is based on the Barwon River on the Hamilton Highway. McConachy's Family Store is also the local post office.

Shelford is the centre of a top merino wool-growing area. Anakie is near the You Yangs in the seat of Corio and the member for Corio (Mr O'Connor) is the member representing that group. Batesford is on the Moorabool River, and Meredith is the centre of a fine wool-growing area. It has a great number of rabbit populations and increasing blue gum plantations, which the honourable member for Denison (Mr Kerr), who is at the table, would not understand. He has no understanding of matters like blue gum populations. Meredith was the home of Sir Henry Bolte, who was the Liberal Premier of Victoria from 1975 until 1972.

I thank the teachers who have helped bring the students here to Canberra: Rob Lamond from Lethbridge, Debra Stavenuiter from Inverleigh, Erica Baulch from Meredith, Michael Kinnane from Meredith and John Tantau from Lethbridge. They have given a lot of time, devotion and enthusiasm to this event. The students have been in the whip's office and they now have a clear understanding of democracy at work here in the House of Representatives. There may be a future Prime Minister from the heartland of Corangamite. They can see the freedom with which big issues are debated here, although the honourable member for Denison does not fully understand the issues of land care and the allocation of funds. As I said, the students understand the freedom that we have to debate—not at the point of a gun like in the Middle East, Cambodia or Indonesia. (Time expired)